*THE EARL OF LYTTON,
who had given notice "To call attention to the affairs of South-Eastern Europe, and to move for Papers," said: My Lords, the Motion which I have placed on the Order Paper this afternoon is intended to raise a discussion, and, I hope, to elicit some information, upon the state if affairs in Macedonia and the present phase of what is known as the Near Eastern question. This question, like the poor, is always with us, and I cannot help thinking that in many respects our attitude towards it is not altogether unlike our attitude towards the poor. Generally, we are all very sorry that such things should be. We regret in-finitely the unfortunate state of affairs, out on the whole we are resigned to the 1315 attitude that no remedy can possibly be found, and this apparent hopelessness of a solution has no doubt led, to a certain extent, to a modification of the interest of the country in the question. But, my Lords, if it be true that the interest in this department of our foreign policy is not as great to-day as it has been on other occasions, if it be true that a certain amount of apathy has settled on public opinion with regard to this part of the world, that does not reduce in any sense our obligations and our responsibilities there, and in spite of those circumstances our duty, I think, remains as clear as ever. Indeed, there is something to be thankful for in the fact that we can now discuss the whole question, review the whole position, without the pressure of sentiment, and without the disturbing influence of popular clamour.
I fully realise the difficulties in which any Foreign Minister is placed who is called upon to deal with a matter of this kind, and the last thing I desire to do this afternoon is to raise any sort of reproach against the noble Marquess who conducts our foreign affairs, as I think all your Lordships will admit, with such conspicuous ability. I feel that if this question had been left entirely in his hands it would have been settled by now—settled, too, in a manner not less effectively, if perhaps less drastically, than a British Admiral— Admiral Noel—once settled the affairs of Crete. But I realise his difficulties. I have no desire to add to them in any way, and the only reason I have placed this Motion on the Paper is to give the noble Marquess an opportunity of making it perfectly plain that, so far as he is concerned, and so far as the Government of this country is concerned, there has been no going back upon the position we have taken up all along on this question; that there is no justification for the opinion, which I am sorry to say is held in some quarters and in other countries, that the British Government is losing heart, and really cares very little about what is happening in Macedonia. I will not ask the noble Marquess for one of those general assurances which it is so easy to give when you are pressed for them in Parliament, but I do appeal to him to state this afternoon, as clearly as his responsible position will 1316 allow, that the voice of this country is still being raised in the counsels of Europe in favour of peace, justice, and administrative reform.
It is within your Lordships' recollection that when this subject was discussed last year on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Newton, a good deal was said about the mandate which had been given to Austria and Russia and the reforms which these two Powers had undertaken to carry out. A good deal of scepticism was expressed on that occasion as to the adequacy of these reforms, but the noble Marquess assured us that if, in the course of time, they should prove to be insufficient, he reserved to himself the right on a future occasion of putting forward more far-reaching proposals. Another year has gone by and we have an even better opportunity of judging the effect of the policy of the mandate. It cannot be doubted that on the whole, considering the time it has been in operation, it has failed to bring about any real amelioration of the state of affairs in Macedonia. At any rate, no one whose knowledge is derived solely from Blue-books and the public Press can point to any evidence that we are really better off to-day than we were twelve months ago, whilst the fact that these twelve months have gone by and so little has been done must in itself be an aggravation of the forces which make for unrest. It is perfectly true that some progress has been made with the reorganisation of the gendarmerie, and it is at least satisfactory to learn that the greatest zeal has been shown and the most efficient work done by that portion which is under the command of Colonel Fairholme and other British officers; but in everything else there has, I am sorry to say, been the usual delay, the usual confusion, the usual lukewarmness on the part of the Powers, and, worse than all, the usual disposition of the Turkish authorities to make use of disputes between the rival sections of Christian communities to stir up strife rather than maintain peace.
The vilayet of Adrianople is still excluded from the sphere of reform altogether. The original Austro-Russian proposals, which we were told constituted the irreducible minimum, have 1317 been curtailed, and are not yet, so far as we can judge from public information, fully in operation. It is evident, therefore, that the policy of the mandate has failed either to prevent bloodshed, to restore order, or to secure reform; and in corroboration of this statement I can quote a despatch from the noble Marquess. I find in the last Blue-book available on this subject that in May of last year the noble Marquess, in answer to Count Lamsdorf, who had found fault with the noble Marquess for, as he thought, the needlessly pessimistic language which he had used, replied as follows—I told his Excellency that I had been challenged to produce any evidence tending to show an actual improvement in the condition of the country, and that no one had been able to supply me with any such evidence.Up to the end of this Blue-book no such evidence is forthcoming. Perhaps the noble Marquess has been able to find evidence between the date on which this Blue-book ends and the present. If that is so, doubtless we shall hear it to-day; but from the period at which this Blue-book ends to the present day nothing has come to the knowledge of the public which will lead them to differ from the opinion then expressed by the noble Marquess.
It is true that the noble Earl the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Percy, speaking in another place, denied that this Austro-Russian reform scheme could be said to have failed, but the noble Earl went on, in the very next breath, to say that the only object of that scheme of reform was to maintain the status quo. What are we to think of any scheme of reform the object of which is to maintain the status quo? I cannot conceive a greater condemnation of a scheme of reform than to say that its only object is to keep things exactly as they are, and if that was the object of the Mürzsteg scheme, then I think we can agree with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that it has abundantly succeeded in its object. There is another circumstance to which some reference must be made, which still further reduces any chance of success which this scheme may once have had. I refer to the internal condition of Russia and the events which have taken 1318 place in St. Petersburg and other large towns in that country during the last few months. I am quite aware that this is rather a delicate matter, and I hope I shall say nothing which can in any way offend the susceptibilities of that great Power for whose present misfortunes at home and abroad, it is impossible not to feel a certain measure of sympathy. But can anyone in all seriousness look to Russia at this moment as a champion of the oppressed, as a genuine and sincere opponent of corrupt, and tyrannical government? What weight could that country have in demanding reforms? What title could it have to protest against massacre and disorder? I cannot help thinking that any Note which Russia could submit to the Porte with regard to the internal condition of Macedonia would lay her open to a retort which is too obvious for me to put into words. While Russia is at this moment in the throes of a great domestic upheaval, Austria is occupied with a situation in Hungary, the difficulties of which are likely to increase rather than diminish with time.
My reference to these events is not merely gratuitous, for the internal preoccupations of these two Empires must have an important bearing on this question. It is true, no doubt, to say that the chief reasons for European intervention in that part of the world are of a selfish character. Here are troubled waters in which every Power must fish lest any one should get more than its share, and since Austria and Russia are the immediate neighbours of the Turk and are, therefore, more nearly affected by the disturbances in that country, they have been told off nominally to secure reforms in the name of the other Powers, but, in fact, to keep a jealous watch over each other. But, above and beyond the question of mere interest, and apart altogether from the ambitions of any individual State, there is a cause which is common to all the Powers alike, there is a justification for intervention which is shared by every one of them, and that is the maintenance of international obligations. The rule of the Turk is altogether an anomaly in civilised Europe, and the misgovernment, followed by insurrection, which is the chronic state of affairs in most of the Turkish Provinces, is a perpetual menace 1319 to the peace of Europe. The result has been that from time to time the resentment of the other European Powers has found vent in protests and expostulations, which, in their turn, have been followed by verbal and even written assurance from the Sultan that real reforms will be carried out. But time goes on, and these reforms never get beyond the stage of promise, and, I think, it is true to say that this spectacle of treaties unfulfilled, of pledges broken, of protests ignored, of corruption and injustice in place of religious tolerance and equitable administration which have been so solemnly promised, is one which it is becoming increasingly difficult for Europe to regard with composure.
To secure real reform in the Turkish dominions is the main if not the only, object of the three Western Powers, and I think I may go so far as to say that their very strength depends upon the fact that they have no other end to serve. But can Austria and Russia, who are at this moment occupied with internal complications of their own, internal complications of a very serious character, be expected to take the same interest in the internal situation in Macedonia? It is perfectly true that they are constantly referred to as the "interested Powers," and I have no doubt that they can be counted upon to show sufficient zeal to maintain their own interests, but those interests are altogether special and peculiar to themselves; and the interests which we share in common with them, the interests which all Europe has in common, are just those to which they may be counted upon to show the greatest measure of indifference. The proof of my contention is to be found in the actual history of what has taken place in the last two years. In the sphere of operations carried out by the gendarmerie, it has been the representatives of the disinterested and not of the interested Powers, who have done the most efficient work; the most far-reaching and important proposals of reform have been put forward not by the statesmen of Austria and Russia, but by the Foreign Minister of this country. Is it surprising, therefore, that under these circumstances those, in whatever country they may find themselves, who really care profoundly about the question, should be looking to the 1320 noble Marquess to see what is to be the next step.
In his speech on the Address the noble Marquess told us that he had not forgotten and had not allowed other nations to Forget the statement he made in this House with regard to the further proposals which he was prepared to put forward if the present scheme should prove a failure. Now it appears from a cutting which I have here from the Standard that the noble Marquess has actually within the last few months made fresh proposals. Naturally this information is not of a very reliable kind, but it is all that I have to go upon, and I submit it, therefore, with diffidence to your Lordships. I find that according to this report, on January 11th last the noble Marquess submitted fresh proposals to the French Ambassador for the establishment of a European Commission to supervise the general administration of Macedonia. I would like to ask the noble Marquess if he can give us this afternoon any further information with regard to these proposals, if he can tell us whether they have been abandoned permanently, or whether they are only temporarily in abeyance pending the carrying out of the new financial proposals since put forward by the two Eastern Empires. The mandate which has been given to Austria and Russia ends in 1905. I should like to ask the noble Marquess whether the proposals which he made to the French Government in January are likely to supersede the policy of the mandate, and whether Great Britain will take any steps, between now and October of this year, to get representation for the other Powers of Europe, including this country.
But since it is evident that these proposals have been abandoned for the moment, the most important consideration is the new proposal which has been put forward by Austria and Russia. This proposal was referred to by the noble Marquess in his speech on the Address as going further than anything which they had yet proposed. Here, again, we have to rely entirely on statements contained in the Press, and I find, in a quotation from The Times of†March 10th, that this proposal is intended to set up financial reform in Macedonia. 1321 It is abundantly clear how important the question of finance must be, because at the present time most of the taxes in the Turkish dominions are very irregularly raised and often with great oppression. The salaries of the officials are unpaid, with the result that they are obliged to pay themselves by extorting money out of the population over whom they are called to rule, and therefore the confusion, disorder, and insurrection in that part of the world is largely to be attributed to the inadequacy and the insufficiency of the financial arrangements.
It appears now, if my information is correct, that in future the Ottoman Bank is to be set up as a sort of receiver-general and paymaster-general; that each of the three vilayets, together with the smaller districts included within their area, is to have a separate budget drawn up by its respective Vali; that these are to be submitted to and agreed to by the Ottoman Bank, by Hilmi Pasha, the Inspector-General, and by the interested Powers—and presumably by "interested" is meant Austria and Russia—and from them a common Macedonian Budget is to be prepared; that no other expenditure is to be sanctioned; that for purposes of administration the Ottoman Bank is to appoint six financial inspectors, whose salaries and expenses are to be paid by the vilayets, and that the Ottoman Bank is to issue monthly statements of accounts. These proposals have apparently been met with a counter proposal from the Turkish Government, namely, that it should raise the Customs duties from 8 to 11 per cent, ad valorem on imported goods.
Now, my Lords, there are several very disquieting features in this new financial reform scheme. In the first place, the Ottoman Bank, which has hitherto been altogether a non-political body, is to be set up to carry out large powers of an administrative kind, and apparently, beyond the control exercised by the bank, no other control is to be established over expenditure. Then, if this new Turkish proposal is accepted, it is this country which will suffer most from the raising of the Customs duties, because at this moment Great Britain has 60 per cent, of the trade with Turkey. It is proposed 1322 that the additional revenue so received shall be applied for the purpose of reform, but of this we have no guarantee whatever, and it appears that Austria and Russia at this moment are cooperating with Turkey in order to maintain the status quo at our expense. One can well understand the complaint of the Turkish Government that these reforms are expensive, and that she is obliged to keep a large force in the field so long as she is threatened with hostilities either from without or from within; but I would like to point out to your Lordships that to remove that burden unconditionally would be to remove altogether the last hope of carrying out reforms. If we may judge from his speeches and from published reports, the noble Marquess has been working all along in favour of the establishment of some European control of administration generally, but to accept this latest proposal of Turkey would be to abandon that position and to enable others to gain while we ourselves are obliged to suffer. I trust that the noble Marquess will give us some information with regard to these proposals this afternoon. I cannot conceive that this country will ever be a party to carrying out such a disastrous scheme. It only shows, if my information is correct, how we are made to suffer by not being ourselves represented, and I would like to take this opportunity of urging on the noble Marquess the importance of securing for this country, in any financial scheme which is undertaken, some representation, because in finance, at any rate, if in nothing else, we have a very substantial interest.
To obtain information on these two points has been one of the objects I have had in putting this Motion on the Paper. My other object has been to concentrate attention on the position of this country with regard to this question. We have interests, it is true, commercial, financial, and diplomatic, in that part of the world, but we have, in addition, obligations and responsibilities which we share in common with the other signatories of the Treaty of Berlin. All these are, no doubt, valid grounds for intervention in Macedonia. I do not dwell upon them because I do not feel it is incumbent upon me to make out a case for intervention. If there were not adequate reasons 1323 the Government would not have intervened as it has done in the past and as it is doing to-day. But I wish at the same time to concede that there are those who think that we have no grounds for intervention in that part of the world. There are some who think we have no more reason to interfere in Macedonia than we have in Persia or in Afghanistan, and though I have no doubt a good case could be made out for non-intervention, just as good a case could be made out for intervention, I wish to emphasise this point, that for intervening halfheartedly and vacillating between the two policies no case can be made out. That is a course in support of which no argument can be adduced and which must in the end damage the prestige of the country which adopts it. If we recognise these obligations, let us take whatever action is required in order to fulfil them, but let that action be firm, consistent, and straightforward. To say one day that we intend to insist upon important reforms, and then the next day to imply that all reform is impossible; to ask much and expect little; to induce the insurgents on one occasion to remain quiet by promises of action, and then subsequently to drive them into hostilities by months of inaction—all this is to court failure and to forfeit the confidence of those with whom we are trying to co-operate.
I do not suggest that the noble Marquess has ever wavered in his personal opinions on this subject, but, unfortunately, there have been utterances in support of the Government policy in other places and on other occasions which are not altogether so reassuring. If we desire to induce France and Italy to join with us in securing reforms, we should afford them no opportunity of doubting our sincerity, and I think I may say that one of the most distressing features of this whole question is the atmosphere of distrust which always surrounds those who take part in it. I hope the noble Marquess will clear up any doubts which may exist with regard to the attitude of this country at any rate. I lay myself open, no doubt, to the question, do you then desire that this country should take 1324 isolated action? The Prime Minister, in another place, said—Are we, because we think a particular reform might be better, because we think if we were left to ourselves we might devise some scheme more appropriate and more thoroughgoing—are we, therefore, to separate ourselves from the European Concert?To that question I answer emphatically, No! But surely there is another course by which we can influence the final solution far better than by withdrawing; from the field, and that is by remaining in the field and firmly and consistently pressing our demands. It is not for "an insane policy of philanthropic adventure," as the Prime Minister called it, that I plead. It is rather that within the Concert of Europe we should be known all along to favour the real settlement of the Macedonian question on permanent lines; that we should insist unremittingly upon some form of European control of justice, administration, and finance; that we should leave no room for doubt as to our action, and that while we should co-operate heartily with other countries in securing any step in the direction we desire to go, we should not express ourselves as satisfied with anything which fell short of the ends we had in view. If without vacillation we insist firmly upon these lines, we shall secure the confidence of those with whom we are working from the first, and I doubt not we shall secure their co-operation in the end.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the affairs of South-Eastern Europe."—(The Earl of Lytton.)
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, nobody who has had sufficient patience to listen to these frequent discussions on the-subject of Macedonia, some of which have been initiated by myself and some by other unofficial persons who sit on this side of the House, can fail to have been struck by the great similarity—I might say monotony—which characterises them. A discussion on this particular subject is usually started, as I have said, by someone who sits on this side of the House. It is continued by unofficial persons; there is generally somebody on the Front Opposition_Bench who takes 1325 the opportunity of urging the Foreign Minister to more energetic action, and the debate invariably concludes with a statement, somewhat apologetic in its nature, by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, deprecating undue haste, urging the virtue of patience, and pleading in mitigation that he, has an exceptionally hard task to perform, in which, I am sure, everybody will concur. The monotony of our debates is characteristic of the monotony of the situation in Macedonia. In spite of Blue-books, Yellow-books, and Whithbooks, in spite of Circulars, Manifestoes, Notes—in short, in spite of all the paraphernalia of diplomacy, the broad fact remains that the condition of Macedonia is exactly what it was a year ago when I happened myself to be in that country.
There is the same amount of unrest; there is the same insecurity; there are still the same hordes of unpaid and semi-disciplined soldiers in the country quartered on the population; there is the same danger of outbreak, weather permitting, and there are the same massacres constantly perpetrated by the rival Christian revolutionary bands. I frequently observe that when one Christian band massacres another it is described as a regrettable incident; if Mussulmans are massacred by Christians it is usually described as an act of righteous retribution; but if Christians are massacred by Turks, the incident is raised to a fullblown atrocity. Nearly everybody is agreed as to the actual condition of things in this part of the world, and difference of opinion only manifests it self when we begin to trace responsibility. Various views prevail in this country as to the degree of responsibility. There are certain eccentric persons who appear to believe that the existing state of things is partly our own fault. That is a delusion which cannot be too frequently exposed. There appear to be a number of people in this country who believe that we are under some peculair liability to the inhabitants of this part of the globe in consequence of the Treaty of Berlin. It cannot be pointed out sufficiently frequently that our liability under that treaty is precisely the same as the liability of any 1326 other Power. I dismiss this theory at once.
Then there is the theory of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who entertains the view, which, at all events, does credit to his courage, that the real reason why no progress has been made is on account of the action of the revolutionary bands; and there is the third view, which is more generally entertained, that the whole fault is due to the Turkish Government itself. I am no admirer of the Turkish Government, but I always feel that that is a somewhat unreasonable attitude to take up. Let anybody ask himself what reforms really mean when you are dealing with the Turkish Government. The Turkish Government, as we all know, is quite incapable of introducing a state of things which approaches what we are pleased to call reform in this country. Reforms in Turkey really mean that the Turkish Government, as a Government, is to be obliterated, and it stands to reason that you cannot expect a Government to work whole-heartedly for its own extinction. But the Turks can always plead this in excuse. They can say, with a certain amount of truth, that if they had been left to deal with this question alone they would have put things right before long. Everybody knows how they would have done it. They would have made war upon Bulgaria; they would, presumably, by force of numbers, have crushed that country, and they would have devoted themselves to those measures of repression with which we are painfully familiar; but they may say with justice that Europe has insisted that the amelioration of the state of things in Macedonia is to be brought about, not by repression, but by administrative measures.
As an administrative measure, let me take one example, which is supposed to be the one solitary success which has so far been the outcome of the Mürzsteg programme—I refer to the European gendarmerie. What is a force of gendarmerie for? It is organised and constituted to maintain order in time, of peace. It would be a very strong assertion to maintain that Macedonia enjoys peace at all in the usual sense of the word, and it certainly does not 1327 enjoy peace while the revolutionary bands are in existence. It is wrong to think, as some people do, that because a gendarmerie exists which is trained and organised according to European methods, that therefore these outrages have come to an end. Such a thing as putting an end to these revolutionary outrages is entirely beyond their power. The whole force of gendarmerie trained by Europeans does not amount to more than 3,000 or 4,000 men all told, and that is a force obviously designed to maintain order in time of peace. In support of my assertion that the gendarmerie is perfectly incapable of suppressing these outrages, I may point out that only two years ago it took something like 300,000 Turkish troops to put down insurrection in that country. So much for Turkish responsibility.
I have put forward the three theories of responsibility which usually hold good in this country. I may take a very exceptional view, but to my mind the chief responsibility for the present condition of things does not rest with the Turks. Neither is it due to the other causes I have enumerated. It is directly due to the fact that in a moment of international aberration the task of restoring order there was entrusted to Austria and Russia. You might just as well hand over the property of an imbecile or a person of weak mind to two persons who were going to benefit by his death, and then expect that his property would be beneficially administered. I do not think that it is ever sufficiently realised in this country that it is neither the object, nor the wish, nor the interest, of either of these two Powers that order and tranquility should prevail in the Balkan Peninsula. Austria and Russia have always in the past shown themselves delighted to profit by any opportunity for aggrandising themselves at the expense of the Turks, but never in my recollection, or in the recollection of anybody else, have they shown the smallest anxiety to promote good government or amelioration of any kind in the dominions of the Sultan. I do not blame them in the least. Why should they?
These two Powers some years ago entered into an amicable arrangement 1328 for the purpose of partitioning the Balkan Peninsula whenever a favourable opportunity arose. So far as we know, that agreement is still in existence, and the Mürzsteg programme is merely a prolongation of the status quo; in other words it is a prolongation of the present state of things, because that prolongation will enable them at some future date to intervene when it suits their convenience. There is a belief in this country that the Christians of Macedonia lead so miserable an existence that they would gladly welcome any change of government. I should like to point out that the case of the Christians in the Balkan Peninsula and in Macedonia itself is not only a case of oppression and misgovernment, but one of rival races who aspire, and legitimately aspire, to eventually inherit territory which now forms part of the Turkish Empire, and I will undertake to say that if anybody chose co ask any educated Greek or Bulgarian in Macedonia as to whether he would prefer to be transferred to Austrian or Russian territory, or to become a subject of one of those two Powers, he would at once say he did not desire anything of the sort. He would infinitely prefer to remain under Turkish rule.
This may sound a somewhat startling announcement, but I will go so far as to say that I believe we may actually see Turks and Bulgarians fighting side by side against intervention by Austria; and, after all, when you come to think of it, this frame of mind is not so ridiculous as it may at first appear. We all realise that the Turkish Empire must come to an end some day. Personally, I am in no hurry to see it come to an end; but what these people argue to themselves is this, that when the Turkish Empire comes to an end, as they know it must do some day, then will be their chance. They may then become the possessors of the territory in which they have so long lived and to which they have a just claim, but if they are handed over to Russia or Austria the position will be different. They know that the moment Austria or Russia sets foot in the country, the moment that their country is so occupied, all their hopes of independent existence are at 1329 an end. A responsible Bulgarian official once remarked to me—We have seen the Russians in the Balkan Peninsula several times already, but does any body in his senses believe that if the Russian are again found in the "Balkan Peninsula the will not remain there permanently.I should like to say one word with regard to a disposition which I have observed in some quarters to blame the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for not having shown greater energy. I do not think one could exaggerate the difficulty of the position which is occupied by the noble Marquess. He has, on the one side, to satisfy sentiment in this country, because there are people here who really and honestly do sympathise with the Christian races in the Near East. He has to endeavour to satisfy the sentiment of this country by urging reforms which are not only hateful to the Turks themselves, but are almost equally distasteful to Austrians and Russians, and possibly to Germans. On the other hand the noble Marquess is apparently unable to count on any substantial assistance from the Western Powers. A good deal of sympathy is shown by the Western Powers, but I cannot say that I observe any concrete evidence of action. I believe there are a certain number of private individuals, both in Italy and France, who sympathise with the views entertained by my noble friend and by those who act with him in this country, but, as a matter of fact, this is the only country, as far as I am aware, in which sentiment plays any real part in the direction of foreign policy, and I repeat that I see no evidence that the Western Powers are disposed to give any substantial assistance to the noble Marquess.
I am afraid that the Western Powers are not likely to modify their attitude in consequence of any opinions I may personally express, but, at the same time, I venture to think that the interests of this country, the interests of France, and the interests of Italy, are not purely sentimental interests. I do not think it requires much intelligence to realise that it cannot be in our interests, or in the interests of France, and it certainly cannot be in the interests of Italy, either that Austrians or Russians should obtain 1330 a permanent foothold in the Balkan Peninsula, or that either of those Powers should establish themselves in the Levant. I maintain that as long as the present condition of things lasts the danger is always in existence, although I know perfectly well that the noble Marquess will not admit anything of the kind. Therefore, for my part, not for sentimental reasons but for material reasons, I venture to hope that we shall elicit a statement from the noble Marquess this afternoon that some effort is going to be made to put an end to the undue pre-dominance which is now exercised by the Governments of Austria and Russia in the Balkan Peninsula, and to recover the collective and undivided control of that situation by Europe which ought never to have been abandoned.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
My Lords, I think I should have taken leave anyhow to say a few words on this important question. But I do so the more because of the inevitable absence of the most rev. Primate, who wished me to express his regret.
It seems to me that there are two ends, as it were, at which one might take up this subject. One is the condition of the population. The noble Lord who has just sat down has spoken of the monotony of these debates. They are monotonous, but there is more serious monotony in the sufferings of these people. This state of things continues from month to month and from year to year. We have had no attempt; this evening, and I shall make no attempt, to stir the feelings of the House by any recital of the things that have happened. Those incidents have not been given great prominence to of late in the public Press, but we know perfectly well that that does not mean that the condition of the population is other than one of real misery. We know the expedient which as been adopted for the preservation of order by the Turkish Government—that declaring martial law and of quartering Turkish soldiery upon the villagers. We learn that similar armed occupation is organised on the side of the Revolutionary Committees and that it not seldom happens that the same population are really subject to threat and counter threat. Then we get an incident like 1331 we had recently at Kuklish, which gives us an insight into the kind of thing which may happen.
That is the condition under which these people actually live, but there is to be added the very painful element of apprehension. There is very little prospect of the bettering of their existence. The worsening of it by the letting loose of a war upon them is, they must feel, a very possible contingency indeed. And what, my Lords, does the diplomacy of Europe hold out to them? We are told, if I understand rightly, that we ought not to be too much disturbed on this matter because there is a scheme of financial reform in progress from which good results may be anticipated. We are told by the best students of political phenomena that the economy of a nation is the fundamental factor affecting its life. That perhaps is so. It may be that financial reform is the thing which in one sense is most needed by these unhappy provinces. But I would ask whether it is in the least likely that we can attach much hope to financial reform at this time of day, unaccompanied by other measures, and the thorough administrative reorganisation which the Under-Secretary has told us is needful. The long and short of it is that these people are living, and have every prospect of living, under what my noble friend the noble Marquess so sympathetically described as "chronic and grievous misgovernment that provokes and leads to outrage."
I say you might take the matter up from that end, but I own I am somewhat disposed to take it up from the other end. The other end is the self-respect of this country. There are, of course, many questions on which we differ. We differ, for instance, about the primary or singular responsibility of England, and about the relation between the events of 1878 and that responsibility. I myself, I frankly own, am not convinced at all that this country has not a distinctive responsibility in this matter. But we do, I think, unitedly agree that whether we have a singular responsibility or not, we have, along with other Powers, a very special responsibility. The position of Great Britain is that of a nation which is, through its leading 1332 representatives, perfectly clear and perfectly determined on this matter. We have a Minister charged with this particular question whose every utterance has given, not merely by what he has said but by the way in which he has said it, the assurance that he cares about the matter and is dealing with it with statesmanlike prudence and firmness. He is the representative of the Party at present entrusted with the government of the country. If we look at the Opposition in this and the other House, we find that on this subject they would say all that the noble Marquess says and even more. We observe that they have withheld from any political action here, or even in the more controversial atmosphere of the other House, which could have the effect of showing that we were divided or of forcing the responsible Minister into words which might do anything to justify the present situation. This is the point I wish to urge on your Lordships. The attitude of the nation is clear. Yet we go on in this way year after year, counting, as it were, so far as public appearances go, for nothing, accomplishing nothing, coming no nearer to our end or so little nearer that we cannot feel any very great pleasure in it.
I remember that it was said not very long ago, in connection with another political controversy, that there were limits to human nature. I venture to say that in this matter we seem to aim at a virtue almost above the ordinary human standard. Our self restraint is so saintly as to be almost suspicious. We submit our views to Europe; those views are ignored, snubbed, and set aside. We accept it with unfailing courtesy and patience; we do not show a flicker of resentment; our temper is unruffled. That is precisely the position which this nation occupies in regard to the Macedonian question. Considering the European situation and the knowledge that our policy is disinterested and humane, we ought to ask rather more loudly than we are asking why England should not have a part in the settlement of this matter—at least as much as Austria and Russia. We have been told that there are reasons why these two Powers were specially suited to the purpose. We have been 1333 told that they were so because of their proximity, because of their race, and because of their knowledge of the circumstances. As to proximity, of course we cannot deny that we are a little further off. Distance does not mean quite so much as it did in the government of the world, but distance is no doubt a factor against us. When we come to racial connection, I own I am surprised that that argument should be adduced. I suppose what is meant is the slav relationship between Russia and Bulgaria. But then how does that square with the warnings that what is needed is a power to hold the Bulgarian and Greek elements in impartial check. Is not the racial connection precisely a disabling rather than an enabling factor in the case? Would it not appear that a Power like Great Britain, which is as obviously disinterested, whatever our foreign critics may say, as a Power can well be in a matter of this kind, would be better for the purpose. And as to knowledge of the circumstances, I do not think the noble Marquess will admit that his knowledge of the circumstances is inferior to the knowledge possessed by the Foreign Ministers of Russia and Austria. I do not think we have any doubt about the sufficiency of our knowledge of the circumstances. This being the case, we ought to be united in a little more directness of treatment of this matter. We ought to treat certain points as absolutely clear. We take it as a matter of course that the Turkish Government is hopeless. We have proved that by experience. We all know that Turkish diplomacy is not really diplomacy at all in any noble or right sense of the word, but merely a network of obstruction. The noble Lord (Lord Newton) says we all know that the Turkish Empire will pass away. We know, at any rate, the way in which reform will come for these subjects and victims of its power. It will only come when some external Power, or Powers, insist that it shall come and see that it does. We want to know what we are waiting for, and when the case will be at all better or easier. Are we waiting for some horrible tornado of massacre such as from time to time stirs the heart of Europe, or are we waiting, which is more probable, for the outbreak of war between Bulgaria and Turkey, which we all regard as in every 1334 sense a contingency that would do harm? The only good that it could possibly do would be that it would exchange the miserable equilibrium of the present moment for something which might in the end, at great cost, bring some relief.
Those of us who take the line which has been adopted by the noble Earl who raised this question, and which I have adopted, are very often charged with one-sided sympathy for Christian races, with casting all the reproach upon the Turk and representing that the races over which he rules are simply sheep without offence, upon which he inflicts injury; and we are told that if we really faced the facts we should find that the parties are as bad as each other, that the difference; between the Bulgarians and the Greeks constitute one of the very worst features of the situation, as undoubtedly they do, and that the atrocities committed by Bulgarians on Greeks are revolting, as undoubtedly they are. But all this is purely beside the point. We know all the facts which are thus brought against us. We know the unhappy condition of these populations. We know how they have, by centuries of misgovernment, been led to courses of violence. But that does not in the least affect our desire to see some form of solution which would bring all these elements into order. I hold in my hand a pamphlet which has been lately issued by those interested in the Greek side of the matter, which is, of course, full of proof of how entirely Greek Macedonia is, and how objectionable and cruel the Bulgarians are. But when I come to the end of this statement I cannot help being struck by finding precisely the language used on behalf of the Greeks which we have been using. I will read an extract—The conflict of contending interests, with its attendant menace, must not be allowed to go on for ever, and the longer a settlement is delayed the more the dangers will increase. For humanity's sake Great Britian cannot be indifferent to the question. Human lives are at stake as long as the present condition of affairs exists. For purely national interests it would be unwise for England not to concern itself.Then there comes a passage which goes home to me very much. It is as follows—That the British Government is alive to the importance of the question the latest Blue-book 1335 proves. Is the nation alert? A Government in a constitutional country is the mouthpiece of the people. No Constitutional Government will act in advance of public opinion. It is therefore necessary for the people of England to declare their opinion.It is to voice the feelings of some small section, at any rate, of English opinion, and to appeal to the English nation at large to speak more firmly and decidedly than it has hitherto done, that we take part in this debate.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, the noble Lord on the bench behind me drew a somewhat melancholy picture of an average Macedonian debate in the House of Lords, and as far as I was able to follow him he reserved for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the duty of making the most depressing and monotonous of all the depressing and monotonous statements to which the House was compelled on such occasions to listen. The statement I am about to make may seem monotonous to your Lordships, but it shall not be entirely animated by that feeling of resignation which the noble Lord attributes to all who are concerned in this question of Macedonian policy. I cannot, to begin with, accept as accurate the noble Lord's statement that the position in the Balkan Peninsula is at this moment precisely what it was a year ago. I am far from saying it is satisfactory, but I think I shall be able to show that on some points there has been a perceptible improvement. On the other hand, it must be admitted that a condition of great unrest prevails in the country, and, although there has been no general uprising, there have been many deplorable incidents and many shocking crimes; and it is, perhaps, the saddest feature in this sad chapter of history that on these occasions the greatest sufferers are the innocent and inoffensive villagers, on whom too often the vengeance either of the Turkish soldiery or of the insurgent bands is so ruthlessly wreaked.
In our view it is urgent that there should be some improvement in this condition of things. We entertain that feeling on the ground of humanity, and also because we believe that, while the 1336 condition of the Balkan Peninsula remains what it is, it constitutes a standing menace to the peace of Europe. So long as the condition of these vilavets affords a pretext for the incursion of armed insurrectionary bands, so long as the attacks of these bands afford a pretext to the Turkish Government for keeping up a vast force of ill-disciplined soldiery in Macedonia, so long as the presence of that great force affords an excuse to Bulgaria for making military preparations which cannot fail to have a disquieting effect, so long will the Macedonian question threaten the peace of Europe.
Something has been said in this debate as to the responsibility of this country for the condition of Macedonia. I have, at any rate, never disputed that a responsibility, and a serious responsibility, rests upon this country. What I have, however, sometimes protested against has been the attempt to show that that responsibility was entirely ours, and that it was owing to sins of omission or commission on our part that the condition of Macedonia is what it is. I believe that if there is any Power which is less responsible for the condition of Macedonia than another, that Power is Great Britain. Ever since the Treaty of Berlin this country has made, I venture to say, greater efforts than any other country to obtain for the European provinces of Turkey that measure of good government which was promised to them when the Treaty of Berlin superseded the Treaty of San Stefano. The responsibility, in our opinion, is a collective responsibility, and any action which may be taken in consequence of it should be not the isolated action of any one Power, but action taken either by or on behalf of all the Powers signatory to the Treaty of Berlin.
I listened with attention to the eloquent speech of the right rev. Prelate. He spoke with warmth, and with a certain amount of impatience of the scant measure of success which has hitherto attended our efforts. I do not quite gather from him what was the moral he drew. I do not know whether he went so far as to suggest that this country, in despair of obtaining a more prompt realisation of its wishes, should separate 1337 tself from the other Powers and should have recourse to isolated action. I have always been one of those who believe that, although it is conceivable that in the last resort isolated action might become inevitable, no greater misfortune could befall this country, or the European Powers, or, indeed, the suffering population of Macedonia, than that one Power should, in defiance of the wishes of the rest, take upon itself single handed the duty of redressing these evils. I would ask your Lordships to consider for a moment what the assumption of such a task would mean. Let us assume that we have formulated our demands, that we have insisted on their acceptance by the Turkish Government, that, if the Turkish Government were reluctant, we hive sent our Fleet to Constantinople, and that, finally, our proposals have been accepted without further demur. Should we in that case really be any nearer to the actual accomplishment of these reforms? You might get your reform measures accepted on paper, but the real difficulty is to get them carried out on the spot. In the circumstances I have imagined, there would be one way, and one way only, in which you could obtain the execution of the reforms on the spot, and that would be to send a British army to occupy the Macedonian provinces. I have only to ask your Lordships to consider the state of Macedonia, the magnitude of the military forces employed in that country and the adjoining countries, and then to ask you whether that is a task which any British Government, or any British Minister, could light-heartedly recommend to their country? Therefore, my Lords, we did not dissociate ourselves from the other Powers, and we gave to the two neighbouring Powers that mandate of which so much has been said.
I understood the right rev. Prelate to ask why Russia and Austria were selected for carrying out that mandate. The right rev. Prelate suggested that they were singularly unfitted for the task, and that it might better have been placed in other hands. But does he suppose that these two Powers would have been content to stand on one side and commit the execution of reform to the hands of the other Powers? 1338 What was in our minds was the great difficulty of proceeding by means of the cumbrous and complicated machinery of the European Concert. We have had some experience of it in recent years, and in our view there was a better chance of obtaining what we wanted if we could arrange that two of the Powers should accept at the hands of the others the task we all desired to see accomplished
Let me refer for a moment to the circumstances in which that mandate was given. Your Lordships will recollect that two schemes of reform were promulgated in 1903 by Russia and Austria. In the first place, there was what was known as the Vienna programme which made its appearance in the spring of 1903, and that was followed in the autumn by the later development known as the Mürzsteg scheme. In February, 1903, it was announced by the Austrian and Russian Governments that, in order to ensure the regular working of the local administration, a budget of receipts and expenditure was to be drawn up for each vilayet and that the revenues of the province, which were to be checked by the Imperial Ottoman Bank, were to be assigned, in the first place, to the requirements of the local administration, including the payment of the civil and military salaries. At the same time it was announced that there was to be an alteration in the mode of collecting the tithes, and the system of farming them out. Later in the year came the Mürzsteg programme, a supplementary scheme under which two Powers undertook to demand the reorganisation of the administrative and judicial institutions, a department in which it would be desirable to give access to the Christians of the country, and to favour the development of local autonomy, while the Powers pledged themselves to introduce without delay the reforms already included in the Vienna scheme.
That twofold scheme seemed to us to provide, and I think it did provide, at any rate the basis of a scheme, which, if properly developed, might have been adopted with the best possible results for the Macedonian provinces. We accordingly accepted it; but we accepted it with the reservation that, if it failed to realise the anticipations of its framers, we should be at liberty to suggest other and 1339 more far-reaching measures. We have never lost sight of those reservations; we have constantly borne them in mind. Lord Newton in his speech also complained of us for placing ourselves in the hands of Austria and Russia, because he imputed to them sinister designs of territorial aggrandisement in the Balkan Peninsula, and suggested that it was inconceivable that Powers harbouring such designs could honestly and effectually carry out the reform of the Macedonian provinces. I think that was an unjust imputation on the part of the noble Lord and I am sorry he has made it.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am bound to say that since I have been concerned in these questions I have been unable to detect in the conduct of either of the two Governments to which the noble Lord has referred any attempt to turn the incidents which we are discussing this evening to their own selfish advantage. Whether they have or have not ideas that in the event of the breaking up of the Turkish Empire they might claim certain reversionary interests is another matter. I take it that in all parts of the world wherever you have to deal with weak Powers you will find that other Powers, generally neighbouring Powers, are under the impression that they have a reversionary interest of that kind. But the point which I wish to make is that it is not fair to impute to the Austrian and Russian Governments that they have taken advantage of the deplorable state of things in Macedonia in order to arrive at private ends of their own.
With regard to the progress which has been made during the past year, I think it is not the case that there has been so complete a failure as the noble Lord would have us suppose. In the first place, a good deal has been done in the way of repatriation. Some months ago it was reported to us that in the whole of Macedonia 20,000 out of 25,000 refugees had been repatriated. Only the other day I received information to the effect that in the Adrianople vilayet—a district where some of the greatest hardships 1340 have been undergone by the people—the extended permission which the Porte had granted would cover all the Adrianople refugees still left in Bulgaria who wished to return, and that there seemed to be a fair prospect that, with a little good will on both sides, one, at least, of the causes of complaint between Bulgaria and Turkey would shortly disappear. That information is from our Charged' Affaires at Sofia. Again, there has been an experiment in the commutation of tithes, and the reports as to the thirty villages in which that experiment has been tried are of a very reassuring description. No system lends itself more to oppression of all kinds than the system of farming out tithes.
Then we come to the question of the gendarmerie. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, poured a considerable amount of ridicule upon the gendarmerie, but I think I shall be able to show your Lordships that the reorganisation of the gendarmerie has I had already some very important and very satisfactory results. The number of gendarmerie officers has lately been increased; there are now forty-eight altogether. Then gendarmerie schools have been opened at Salonica—a school for officers and a school for recruits. Last autumn there were 250 men in training and 250 more were expected. On December 1st last the first batch of gendarmes were sworn in before the Inspector-General and the Consular representatives; and I am told that general admiration was expressed at the manner in which these ignorant, undisciplined men had been turned into smart and well-disciplined soldiers. Then it has been arranged, and I think it is a matter of some importance, that whenever domiciliary visits are made to the villagers' houses only trained gendarmes under the foreign officers should be employed. We think that that is likely to have the effect of diminishing the chance of an occurrence of many of the abuses of which so much complaint has been made.
Besides that I have more than once said to your Lordships that to my mind one very valuable effect of the presence of these gendarmerie officers would be that we should be able to obtain what we have so rarely been able to obtain—thoroughly 1341 trustworthy and reliable reports as to some of the incidents which are complained of. For example, in a very bad case at a place called Kuklish we should not have had any report at all if it had not been for the presence of a Russian gendarmerie officer. From that officer a very full and complete report was obtained; and upon that report the Ambassador was able to found his representations, which I believe had a good effect, because a full inquiry has been ordered into the conduct of the troops on that occasion. But I can say more than that, because in two comparatively recent cases we have reports which show that the gendarmerie officers were actually able to do a great deal in the way of preventing the perpetration of some of those acts of oppression which figure so largely in these reports. Here is an account of an occurrence in the neighbourhood of Vodena. A small band of komitajis was surrounded, the village was attacked, and judging from past experience it would have been natural to expect that the innocent villagers would have suffered very considerably. But what actually happened was that, although a barn was set on fire, none of the village houses were burned, no non-combatants were injured, and, although perquisitions were made in fourteen houses, no looting or other excesses took place. The Consul-General adds—The most interesting feature in this encounter is to be found in the fact that stringent orders bad been issued by Hilmi Pasha to avoid any repetition of the excesses of Kuklish, and that the command of the troops employed was confided to two Turkish gendarmerie, officers—a captain and a lieutenant—who had lately passed through the gendarmerie school for Chefs de Poste at Salonica. The manner in which these officer, who are the first of the reorganised gendarmerie to be placed in charge of such operations, have performed their difficult task is in striking contrast to the usual mode of procedure, and must prove a great satisfaction to the foreign officers responsible for their training, and augurs well for the future success of the force.I have another case relating to the village of Smol, very closely resembling that which I have just described; and I venture to suggest to your Lordships that with that evidence before us in the early days of the gendarmerie it is scarcely fair to represent the reorganisation of that force and the training which officers and 1342 men have undergone as being a negligible quantity.
§ LORD NEWTON
May I interrupt the noble Marquess? I never said anything against the gendarmerie. I merely said that they were much too few to put down the excesses committed by the revolutionary bands. I did not express any contempt for them.
§ *THE MARQUESS or LANSDOWNE
I am glad I misunderstood the noble Lord. I gathered from the general tone of his remarks that he was pouring a good deal of ridicule on the gendarmerie. I may also say that in the particular section of the country that has been put under British gendarmerie officers excellent results have been obtained. I may mention amongst other things that, owing to the influence of Colonel Fairholme and his brother officers, Turkish company officers who showed themselves obstructive have been deprived of their command, that our gendarmerie officers have been allowed access to the prisons—a most importat point—and that they have also been allowed to be present in Court when trials have been proceeding. All that seems to me to show that, so far at all events as the gendarmerie are concerned, something has been accomplished in the way of reforms. When we remember that this has been done in a country distracted by unrest, paralysed by the excesses of the troops, and saturated with old race antipathies which existed long before the Turks went into the country, I think we must feel that our efforts have not been entirely in vain. I should in any circumstances have asked your Lordships whether, this being so, it was necessary for us to proclaim that everything which has been done under the mandate had been a failure.
But I am the more anxious that your Lordships should not rush to that conclusion, because at this moment the two Powers, and indeed all the Powers concerned, are not sitting with folded hands congratulating themselves upon that which has been achieved. It is admitted on all sides that further reforms are necessary and should be undertaken at once. The noble Lord spoke particularly of the scheme of financial reforms which has been put forward 1343 by Austria, and Russia. As to that, the right rev. Prelate asked your Lordship what use it was to prescribe financial reforms for a country in such a grievous state as Macedonia. My Lords, I venture to tell the right rev. Prelate that the condition of Macedonia never will be improved unless its financial system under goes a thorough and complete overhauling Financial reform lies at the root of all other reforms. You cannot expect the civil administration of the country to be properly conducted, you cannot expect the officials to be paid, you cannot expect the Law Courts to be pure and honest unless the finances are properly administered, and unless the salaries of the public officers are punctually paid.
The scheme of the two Powers as to which the noble Earl asked me for information was, I think, correctly described by him. The pivot of the scheme is the Imperial Ottoman Bank, which is to be treasurer and paymaster-general for the three vilayets. It is to receive the revenues after the deduction of the obligatory charges and the expense; of administration, and it is to issue the necessary payments. Local budgets are to be framed for the vilayets and sandjaks. Those budgets are to be approved by the Inspector-General and by the Bank and the two Powers interested—Russia and Austria. A general budget is to be drawn up by the Bank; and it is provided that no fresh sources of revenue are to be tapped, and no new expenditure outside the limits of the budget is to be incurred, except with the consent of the two Powers.
Finally, there are to be six inspectors of finance who are to be Turkish subjects nominated by the Bank and appointed by the Inspector-General. That is the outline of the scheme as it has been proposed. It seems to us to be a scheme which contains some good features; but we have made no secret of the fact that it appears to us a very imperfect project, and that in certain respects it falls very short of what is necessary, notably in this respect, that apparently it is contemplated that the Bank is only to receive the surplus revenues after such deductions and abstractions as the local officials may consider themseleves 1344 justified in making. We also take exception to the scheme on the ground that it appears to be based on an assumption, about which I think there is a good deal to be said—namely, that the mandate to the two Powers to deal with this all-important question is, as a matter of course, to continue beyond the expiration of the present year, when it was always contemplated that that mandate might come to an end.
Then there is the Turkish counter-project, into the details of which I need not go, but which resembles the scheme of the two Powers, differing from it, however, in this, that while the scheme of the two Powers assumes the control of those two Powers, the Turkish scheme does not assume any external control at all
THE EARL OF LYTTON
Will the noble Marquess say whether there is any project put forward by the Turkish. Government for raising revenues such as I have referred to?
§ *THE MARQUESS or LANSDOWNE
I was coming to that. I have described the financial scheme of the two Powers and the counter-financial scheme of the Turkish Government. I now come to another scheme, separate from those two, but one to which we attach great importance. The Turkish Government has proposed to all the Powers that they should consent to an increase of the Customs duties from 8 to 11 percent, for the purposes of providing the funds necessary for these Macedonian reforms, that is a proposal which I need not say affects this country very closely. Sixty percent, of the Turkish foreign trade is ours, and it would clearly impossible that we should allow that trade to be subjected to an increased impost without thoroughly satisfying ourselves that there was a case for accepting such an additional burden.
The proposal is also important for his reason: the two Powers have agreed to it upon condition that the Turkish Government accept their scheme of financial reform; so that it becomes mixed up with the question of financial reform. As to this proposed 1345 increase of the Customs duties, we have thought it our duty to ask from the Turkish Government an explanation upon certain points, and amongst them these. We desire to know the basis of the calculation upon which these demands are founded. We want to know what are the estimates of local receipts and expenditure which justify the demand for this grant-in-aid from the Customs receipts. We also think that some attempt should be made to show the Powers that the Custom revenue of Turkey is administered in such a way as to bring to the Turkish Treasury the whole of the receipts which a proper and effectual collection of duties will produce. Unless that can be shown it seems to us that the case for increased duties loses much of its strength. Besides that, we have made it clearly understood that, if we agree to accept this increase, we shall expect some of the great abuses which characterise the administration of the Turkish Customs, and of which we have for many years past complained, to be first removed. That is what we have said to the Turkish Government in regard to their proposal to increase the Customs duties. But I am also able to tell the noble Earl that we have made it clear to the two Powers who have put forward the schema of financial reforms that we consider that we are entitled to have a Voice in the settlement of that scheme before it is finally approved, and I may add that we have said the same to the other Powers.
The noble Earl asked me whether I could give him any information as to a statement which he had noted in a well-known newspaper to the effect that in the month of January His Majesty's Government put forward a scheme of their own for the introduction of reforms. These revelations, I observe, usually come to us from abroad. Whether it is that newspaper correspondents in other countries show more enterprise or that public offices in other countries are less discreet than they are here I do not know; but the author of this statement evidently must have overheard, or have had accessto some one who overheard, an important conversation between myself and the French Ambassador, 1346 and must have discussed the contents of confidential despatches which have not yet seen the light and which are not likely for the present to do so. But I think it is very likely that, in the course of my frequent discussions and conversations with the representatives of foreign Powers on this subject, I may have said something not unlike, what the noble Lord has gathered from this particular newspaper report; I must, however, ask him not to press me further upon this subject. It is quite clear that these discussions were confidential and should remain confidential. We believe at this moment that there is something very like a consensus of the Powers in favour of further reforms, and we earnestly desire to find ourselves in a position to co-operate with them. It would, therefore, be most unfortunate if these confidential communications were to be divulged; and it would be even more unfortunate if we were to create an impression that, instead of encouraging the other Powers as we have done to strengthen their proposals, we were to embarrass them by running counter-proposals of our own; the existence of which would certainly create, where we least wished to create it, the impression that the European Powers were divided amongst themselves, instead of presenting, as I hope they will, a solid front when they ask for the execution of these further measures.
But, though I am obliged to shelter myself behind official secrecy, I have not the slightest objection to give the noble Lord a general indication of the manner in which we regard the situation which has arisen. I may tell him in the first place that in our opinion the question has reached a stage when all the Powers have the right to make themselves heard, and in the next place that, so far as we are concerned no proposals will be regarded as satisfactory unless they secure to the provinces of Macedonia a financial system effectually decentralised; and I add to that that in our opinion these reforms, whatever they may be, should be extended to the vilayet of Adrianople. I used an expression just now which perhaps I ought to explain more fully. I said that in our opinion no proposals 1347 would be satisfactory unless they involved the effectual decentralisation of the financial system of Macedonia, and I dare say the noble Lord would like to ask me what I mean by that expression. I will tell him. We think in the first place that the budget should be so framed as to provide adequately for all the legitimate needs of the civil administration of Macedonia, and we think that those requirements should be a first charge upon the local revenues. I mean by this that they should come first after the obligatory deductions for the payment of the debt and other purposes; but I do not include among the obligatory deductions deductions for the sake of keeping up the large military force now quartered upon the vilayets.
In the next place I mean that the finances of Macedonia should be placed either directly or indirectly under International control; and, lastly, that guarantees should be provided sufficient to render it certain that any revenues which may be ear-marked for the special benefit of Macedonia should find their way there and should not be intercepted or diverted to other purposes. These are the main considerations to which we attach importance; and I hope that my noble friend will agree with me that our voice has been raised in support of the cause of Macedonian reform, and that we have not accepted with that resignation which has been attributed to us the difficulties which have beset our path. We have urged these views, and we shall continue to urge them; and, although I do not desire to appear too sanguine, I for one have every hope that they will command the attention to which we think they are entitled. They have at all events this merit—that they are entirely disinterested, and that we urge our claims in the great cause of humanity and peace.
§ *EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I am sure we have listened with great interest to the debate which has taken place this evening. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Newton, said that a debate on this subject in your Lordships' House was always monotonous, but I do not think I can agree with him in that. We have had great variety in the observations and 1348 sentiments of those who have spoken, and we have heard many interesting and important criticisms on the policy of the Powers and also on the prospect of the success of the present scheme. I rise after the appeal of my right rev. friend who spoke just now to say that the necessity for a great change in the government of Macedonia is recognised as powerfully on this side of the House as elsewhere; and I feel it a duty on my part, as representing my friends here, to join with those who earnestly press for the success of measures of amelioration in Macedonia. I wish to make a few remarks on what has fallen from the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I confess I felt that he was speaking in a somewhat despondent tone, and was not so sanguine as to the success of the measures adopted by the Powers as he had been on previous occasions. I do not for a moment say he showed less desire for improvement in the government of that country. I think what the right rev. Prelate said of him is quite true, that his sentiments are disinterested, humane, and good for all those concerned. But I venture to think he did not give a very good account of what has been done in the past through the measures that have been undertaken by the great Powers. He told us that the country remained in unrest, and that a great part of the population was still paralysed by the excesses of the soldiery. The instances which the noble Marquess gave of what has already been done appear to be merely isolated instances of improvement here and there. Take the question of the gendarmerie.He quoted two cases in which the effect of the gendarmerie had been very good; but he gendarmerie has been established in Macedonia for about eighteen months.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE:
The training only began last autumn, and you cannot turn out trained gendarmerie in a week.
§ *EARL SPENCER
I think there must have been some delay in getting the men trained and at work. At all events, the noble Marquess only gave us a few instances of improvement resulting from 1349 the gendarmerie. So far as my memory serves me the number of officers was orignally to be sixty; but I believe the number is only forty-eight. They are not enough to deal with all the difficulties that have to be encountered. I was glad to hear that there has been progress in regard to repatriation, and that Adrianople is to be included in any scheme of reform. That is a very important matter, and it has all along been proposed by those interested in the question. I am not one of those who have advocated isolated action on the part of His Majesty's Government in this matter. What is done must be done by collective action on the part of the great Powers. But, unfortunately, as the noble Earl who raised this discussion and the noble Lord who followed him pointed out, circumstances have considerably changed since Russia and Austria had the mandate from the other Powers to take this matter up. I do not wish to say anything to hurt the feelings of Russia, but we all know that Russia at this moment is not in the same position to effect the reforms as she was when these matters were first dealt with; though whether she would desire to withdraw and have some other Power put in her place is doubtful. I think the noble Marquess a little misunderstood what fell from the right rev. Prelate with regard to the suggested scheme of financial reform. The right rev. Prelate did not object to having a sound system of finance in these provinces. What I understood him to say was, that the first thing necessary in order to restore peace was to establish order and good government, and that no system of finance which could be devised would be of any avail unless it were accompanied by good government. I feel that very strongly; but I agree that the proposals indicated by the noble Marquess are exceedingly interesting and may lead to considerable progress. We have heard the views of the noble Marquess on several occasions. On a former occasion, he actually proposed that a Christian Governor should be appointed to manage these provinces.
§ *EARL SPENCER
I hope that proposal has not been forgotten, as I cannot help thinking that the appointment of a Christian Governor for these provinces would be one of the most effectual ways of putting an end to the mischief and disorder and unrest which now prevail. The noble Marquess did not explain to us the relations between the gendarmerie and the Turkish military and civil authorities. That is an important matter. At different times we have heard that they are not on good terms, and that the civil and military authorities interfere a great deal with the independent and firm administration of the officers of the gendarmerie put there by the great Powers. As I have said, I should be the last to press for individual separate action on the part of His Majesty's Government, but I do urge vigorously that the great Powers should do everything possible by pressure on Turkey to put an end to a state of things which is so lamentable.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
The noble Marquess said nothing in his speech with reference to the issue of further Papers. I should like to ask him whether, in view of the fact that this Blue-book, which is the last that has been published on this question, is now nearly eight months old, he can see his way to give further Papers on the subject.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I will consider my noble friend's suggestion. I think he is fairly entitled to ask for more Papers, and I will see what Papers can be presented; but it obviously would not be possible to present Papers regarding any matters which are still under consideration between the Powers.
§ Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.